On Thursday, June 23rd, J.K. Rowling addressed mounting speculation on the nature of her new project, announcing it to be called Pottermore, a free to use website which builds an online experience around the reading of all of her hugely successful Harry Potter books, and is partnered by Sony.
For her new project, Rowling has written extensive new material about the characters, places and objects from the Harry Potter series, which includes over 18,000 words of unreleased background information. In partnership with Rowling’s publishers worldwide, Pottermore will later incorporate an online shop where people can purchase exclusively the long-awaited Harry Potter eBooks, with the ultimate intention of becoming an online reading experience geared toward new and existing Harry Potter fans. Additionally, as the Pottermore shop developes, it’s possible that Sony products and services related to Pottermore will be introduced.
In the new website, the story will be brought to life with newly-commisioned illustrations and ‘moments’ through which you can navigate, starting with the first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s (Sorcerer’s) Stone. On entering, users will be given a ‘magic’ username to begin their experience. While navigating through the chapters, readers will be treated to exclusive writing from J.K. Rowling, in addition to being able to virtually visit Diagon Alley, get sorted into a house, cast spells and mix potions to help your house compete for the house cup.
“I wanted to give something back to the fans that have followed Harry so devotedly over the years, and to bring the stories to a new digital generation,” said Rowling. “I hope fans and those new to Harry will have as much fun helping to shape Pottermore as I have. Just as I have contributed to the website, everyone else will be able to join in by submitting their own comments, drawings and other content in a safe and friendly environment — Pottermore has been designed as a place to share the stories with your friends as you journey through the site.”
Fans can submit their email addresses on Pottermore.com in order to be contacted by the site following the opening of registration on July 31st. Also on that date, an online challenge will be launched, whereby the first million people to complete their registration will gain early entry into the website, and help put final touches to the experience.
Pottermore will be open to all users in October 2011.
Analysis: This is a pretty big deal for Potter fans, especially those desperate for something to tide them over until Rowling’s next sure-to-be-a-blockbuster novel. To say that the Harry Potter books are rich in content is an understatement – with digital worlds being created for all seven books, the Pottermore site should provide a seemingly endless “literary experience.”
It’s cool that readers can now legally download Harry Potter eBooks (current eBooks/PDF files were never approved by Rowling or her publishers), and supposedly the eBooks will not feature digital restrictions management (DRM), so reading on the go via Amazon’s Kindle or Apple’s iPad, or any eBook compatible device for that matter, will be a breeze. Also, the decision to not include DRM technology will more than likely be welcomed by many who find it a bit intrusive, and may inspire other authors and publishers to follow.
Though Pottermore isn’t exactly an MMO by traditional standards, it does look to be a rather unique online experience that’ll surely bring in millions of people looking to carve out a name for themselves on the site. And finally, a chance for Potter fans to find out if they really do belong in Gryffindor, or Slytherin. Let the Sorting Hat ceremony begin.